I’ve partaken in so many launches of late I could be mistaken for Cape Canaveral, or should that be a speedboat derby. I will ultimately get onto Jim Sharman’s biography, Blood and Tinsel, perhaps closer to Christmas shopping time. Anybody who puts a photo of me in their book when I was so young that there was still an ‘air of innocence’ about me is certain to get their product endorsed!
Last week, Monday 1 September, there was the launch of the 2009 Sydney Theatre Company Season. The Upton-Blanchetts were in full glow, and a spirit of fun, excitement and enterprise filled the air of the Wharf Theatre Foyer.
Cate and Andrew (aka Glitter and Fluffy), gorgeous little pussy cats that they are, can clearly be seen pushing the company in new directions. No upheavals or revolutions, but some conceptual tidying up and what looks on paper like some excellent team building.
The company’s activities have been divided into three areas. Here’s a quote from G&F’s online message:
“The major divisions are MAIN STAGE, NEXT STAGE (artists and artform development) and BACK STAGE (readings, forums, tours and more), not to mention our Education Program. There are various offerings and activities associated with each (and there are a lot). If you were really keen, you could probably find something to do here every week – we certainly do! You can learn about the Main Stage Season on this our brand new website. As for what’s going on with Next Stage, Back Stage and the Education Program – we’ll let you know the details later.”
The MAINSTAGE program meanwhile is broken up into three categories by venue: Wharf 1, Drama Theatre SOH, and the wimpily (sic) named Sydney Theatre. (Why not the ‘Robyn Wherett Complex’?)
With five gigs booked in, work at Wharf 1 has been branded: ‘Discover the Essence of Sydney Theatre Company at the Wharf’. These productions, I guess, will focus on those more intimate theatre experiences for which this venue is ideally suited. It includes, on the Australian-play front, a fresh rendition of David Williamson’s classic The Removalists, to be directed (NB) by Wayne Blair; and an upgraded version of Tommy Murphy’s new play, Saturn’s Return, which has just finished its sell-out debut season in Wharf 2. In regard to Saturn’s Return, it’s great to see the theory of working plays up, through process, being put into practice. It will be fascinating to see what this inventive new play looks like in ten months’ time
2009’s celebrity guest, Steven Soderbergh, will also be creating a work for this cosy venue – a good subscription teaser! Coz you aint gonna get in any otherways…
With three gigs, the Drama Theatre is branded: ‘Have a Great Night Out at the Opera House’, kicking off with Tom Stoppard’s writerly pleasure palace, Travesties, to star Jonathan Biggins (currently at the height of his powers) and master craftsman, director Richard Cottrell. The pair recently worked exceedingly well together on the Goons gig, Yin Tong. With Michael Scott Mitchell on set design and Julie Lynch on costumes, I can’t see how the word ‘fabulous’ is to be avoided by those of us generally disinclined to hyperbole!!! Plus Blazey Best, Toby Schmitz and William Zappa among the other cast members. Can we have same NAMES please!
The Robyn Wherrett Complex (ex-Sydney Theatre), is hosting two shows under the category ‘The Big Event’.
One of themis Tennessee Williams’ A Street Car Named Desire, to be directed by Liv Ullmann starring ‘Our Cate’, Joel Edgerton, Russell Kiefel, and rising mini-diva Robin McLeavy. That’s leaving out a bunch of other ‘hot’ names also in the acting line up. Ralph Myers is on set design, with Tess Scofield on costumes. Can’t see it myself – but I guess I’ll plod along.
A point to be made here. Up until now, our mega divas (Judy D, Robyn N, Cate B) have been involved mostly in small productions at the Wharf. There were reasons for this – like allowing them to be ‘pure artists’, etc. But I can just imagine Nellie Melba looking across the road and saying’ ‘What’s wrong with that Big House over there!’ So with both The War of the Roses (SydFest 2009) and, in a much larger role, in Streetcar, we have Ms Blanchett rising to the challenge and clamour – and putting herself out there where the whole world can see. Bravo!
Cate Blanchett has taken to her duties in her first year as co-artistic director of the Sydney Theatre Company with remarkably good grace. She was obliged to endure some appallingly cheap hits in the print media early on. Her response was to smile and not bite back. Actions prove louder than words, and this – we are discovering – is her way. That she can segue from ‘global icon’ to ‘local industry team player’ by just pulling her back into a pony tail is amazing to watch. She knows when she has to turn her aura on, whenever this is required of her, and when she doesn’t. If she doesn’t have to, she don’t. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to run into the men’s room and hide. It’s the ‘heat’ – lol. I sometimes think of her as the cinematic child of Kate Hepburn and Grace Kelly, sister of Catherine Deneuve. If cryogenics can allow that.
It’s different for Andrew Upton, aka Cary Grant, who has been exposed to less ‘tall poppy’ crap. He, on the other hand, has probably got to learn how not to want to be ‘everybody’s best mate’ coz somewhere along the line he is going to have to make some hard choices – between one best buddy and another. Very State of Origin, if you get my drift…But hey, how about the enthusiasm and the smarts!
The other comment one could make about the 2009 program is its focus on team building. This can be observed in who has been put to work together on shows mentioned above. Wayne Blair, of Aboriginal descent, gets to tease out the themes that hold The Removalists together. Including a couple that might have been overlooked in the past? By asking Blair to direct, we have a special interest in this revival. The entire talent packages around Travesties and Streetcar promote excitement. This is not a season where plays have been picked and then production teams put to them. Jeremy Sims stars in a play called God of Carnage. Say no more! Rather, a play has only made it onto the program if it was thought that the ‘right team’ could be found to bring the work to true life.
There are a couple of one-off treats as well. Most notably, a new look Actors Company performing a mega-version of three Medieval Mystery Plays in the vaste expanse of CarriageWorks at Redfern. More on that another time.
For a full run down of the main-stage program (Wharf 1, Drama Theatre SOH, and the Sydney Theatre) go to the STC’s website.